Engineered Countertops Linked to Deadly Lung Disease Silicosis

Experts have issued a warning that artificial stone slabs used for countertops during renovations can pose an emerging health risk, as it may contribute to a condition called silicosis. Although many may not be familiar with this condition, those who have undergone renovation using such slabs must be cautious.

According to a joint investigation conducted by NBC4 I-Team and Telemundo 52 Investiga, the main victims of irreversible lung damage are workers who cut engineered stone. This condition is characterized by the damage that is unlikely to be reversed.

Recalling his symptoms, Gustavo Reyes-Gonzalez, who was diagnosed with Silicosis, shared his experience.

“He described his first sign as a dry cough.”

During the COVID pandemic, Reyes-Gonzalez underwent several hospitalizations and was first diagnosed with pneumonia. However, he later found out the actual cause of his illness.

Wendy Torres, his wife, expressed the heart-wrenching impact of the situation, stating, “It was devastating.”

Gustavo, who was just 30 years old, required a lung transplant in order to stay alive.

According to health experts, individuals can develop silicosis due to exposure to silica dust that is produced during the cutting, sawing, or crushing of stone countertops. This is particularly true for engineered stone, which may contain up to 99% silica.

As of June 10, the California Department of Public Health has confirmed 154 cases associated with engineered stone, resulting in at least 13 deaths. Los Angeles County alone has reported 92 cases.

According to a study conducted by Dr. Jane Fazio, who specializes in pulmonary medicine at Olive View Medical Center UCLA in the San Fernando Valley, there has been a noticeable increase in cases of silicosis over the past decade, which she attributes to the growing popularity of engineered countertops.

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According to her, the issue has now become a rising health crisis.

Latino men are more susceptible to the disease as they tend to work with synthetic stone during kitchen remodels.

Local authorities are taking action in response to the expected rise in cases, as warned by Dr. Fazio.

Lindsay Horvath, a Los Angeles County Supervisor, took the lead in securing funds to safeguard workers through education and regulatory enforcement.

Cal OSHA has introduced new temporary emergency standards that mandate the use of water and specific respirators for employees at countertop cutting businesses in California. However, the permanent rules are still pending.

After his lung transplant, Gustavo has become dependent on 15 different medications every day. Despite this, he and his wife, Wendy, make sure to appreciate and value the time they have together.

Gustavo is presently in the midst of a legal dispute with more than 40 manufacturers of artificial stone. He has accused them of negligence and product liability, but the companies have refuted these claims in court documents.

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